How to Make KombuchaAugust 25, 2023
Kombucha has been a drink of choice in China, Japan and Tibet for thousands of years. Made from fermented tea, it’s without any artificial flavours or excessive amounts of sugar. Kombucha can be enjoyed all year round, on its own or alongside a meal. To make this ancient drink yourself, follow this step-by-step guide.
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a naturally fermented drink made (usually) from black tea. To make a kombucha, you will need a ‘SCOBY’, which stands for a ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’. Scoby is a disk-shaped culture that facilitates the fermentation process. A scoby generally floats at the top of a kombucha batch, but it’s still active if it sinks to the bottom. You can easily get a scoby online, or find a local workshop where the scoby is provided. Don’t let your scoby dry out or put it in the fridge, as you need to keep the good bacteria alive and kicking. Always keep the liquid that comes with your scoby, as it contains lots of living goodness that should be added to your first batch.
How to make your own kombucha
The only equipment you need to make kombucha is a large glass or ceramic jar. A wide-mouthed container is better as it provides more surface for active fermentation. Avoid plastic and metal vessels. You might also find a plastic funnel, a plastic sieve and a thermometer helpful at later stages of the process. You only need five ingredients for kombucha and you can multiply the quantities to make more as you grow confident with the process:
1l water (250ml of boiled water and 750ml of cold de-chlorinated water). Either boil your tap water ahead of time to dechlorinate it and let it cool down, or leave a jug of tap water on the counter overnight so the chlorine can dissipate.
1 tea bag or 1 tsp of loose tea. The scoby likes its tea black.
50g-100g of ordinary cane sugar. Sugar is necessary for yeast and bacteria to reproduce and create the carbonated effect.
A small scoby:
Hydration is important, so keep your scoby in a glass of dechlorinated water until you’re ready to start brewing.
This is usually taken from the top of the previous batch and makes around 10% of the quantity of the new batch. Use the liquid that came with your scoby if this is your first batch, and then reuse previous batches as you repeat the cycle.
This method creates kombucha in batches. The first batch serves to increase the fermenting liquid for the second batch. Use it all except, for enough liquid to provide for the starter liquid of your next fresh batch.
- Boil 250ml of water in a pot, turn off the heat and add your tea and sugar, stir swiftly to dissolve the sugar. Leave for 6-10 minutes to brew.
- Remove tea from the solution. Don’t squeeze the teabags, as it can cause the brew to become bitter. Pour the solution into your jar.
- Add the cold de-chlorinated water – to cool down the solution. Anything above 35°C will harm the scoby.
- Add the scoby and the starter liquid that the scoby has been sitting in. There should be a minimum of 5cm left at the top of the jar to allow for fermentation activity and scoby growth.
- Cover the jar with a cloth or a paper towel and an elastic band, as the scoby needs to breathe.
- Leave to ferment for 6-9 days at room temperature away from radiators, the oven or direct sunlight. After 6 days you may start sampling.
Now you are ready for the ‘secondary fermentation’ which usually takes place in a bottle, but you can use a tall glass jar as well and then decant your home brew kombucha into decorative bottles. This is the stage during which you can add additional flavourings.
How to flavour kombucha
There are many ways to add flavour to kombucha. You can mix the tea types in your first or second fermentation, such as white, green and black tea. You can also experiment with add-ons when decanting to bottles. Whether it’s dried fruit, fresh herbs or spices – just chop your intended flavouring, add it to the bottle and watch how your kombucha develops!
Store your kombucha in the fridge and consume it within 2 days. It’s important to note that while store-bought kombucha may last longer, it has been prepared in controlled and sterilised conditions and therefore every safety precaution has been taken.
Kombucha can also improve the taste of a meal, so long as it’s paired with the right food. Recipe Development Manager at HelloFresh, Mimi Morley, suggests drinking kombucha with cheeses, leafy salads and other fermented foods like pickles. “Kombucha can really elevate a fresh mozzarella salad as the tanginess of the drink brings out the fresh creamy flavour of the cheese.”
Kombucha with meals
Kombucha is a great alternative to drink at dinner, instead of wine or Pimms. Serve it as an alcohol-free cocktail, in a glass with a sugary rim and a wedge of lemon inside. Or, add a sprig of mint and serve kombucha a refreshing alternative to ice tea and fizzy drinks at your next barbecue.
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